Is the Leadville 100 good for Leadville?

I love bikes. I love races. I love people who are serious about both.

So, it seems like the answer to the title’s question would be fairly predictable.

As someone who has only been in the cloud city for three years, I know I’m not the most qualified to have an opinion on this matter. I’m aware of some drama and backstory existing behind the L100 race series, though, to be honest, I don’t really know any details. Thus, I’m working off of loose anecdotal data and “observational synthesis,” a term I’ve coined to refer to basically any column-worthy thought which comes into my brain while training.

What I have noticed descend upon Leadville each year in the second and third weeks of August is:

  1. more expensive looking bikes
  2. more expensive looking sprinter vans
  3. more old dudes with shaved legs that are leaner and meaner than mine

Now, working beyond my jealousy of all three of those components — this isn’t a great week for me to practice contentment – I’ve come to this conclusion: the Leadville Race Series is quintessentially Leadville.

Which is to say, it might be good for the town … and it might also run itself into the ground in 10 years.

To understand my premise, you have to understand a little bit about the history of Leadville.

Mining began in California Gulch in 1859 after the discovery of gold. By 1872, California Gulch, now more known for being a staple training route for the Seder-Skier.com Factory Team, was yielding more than $2,500,000 annually (which is equivalent to $57,000,000 in 2021, and thanks to inflation $890,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in 2022.

Three years after Leadville was founded in 1877, at the peak of the Colorado silver boom, it was one of the world’s largest and richest silver camps.

One historian wrote, “The outpouring of the precious metal from Leadville transformed the struggling Centennial State into a veritable autocrat in the colony of states. As if by magic the rough frontier town of Denver became a metropolis; stately buildings arose on the site of shanties; crystal streams flowed through the arid plains and the desert blossomed and became fruitful. Poverty gave way to the annoyance of wealth and the fame of silver state spread throughout the world.”

The city reached a peak population of 60,000 in 1893. From there, boom and bust cycles around mining would characterize the town. It was known for its lawlessness. People exploited what it offered, took what they could, and left when it ran out.

I’m wondering if at the end of the ages, we will see this with the Leadville Race Series. Are $475 registration fees the same type of swindling we saw from “Chicken Bill” when the Little Pittsburg mine was sold to Horace Tabor, a man so rich he built a balcony window so his wife could look up 7th street and see her hubby walking home … and know that it was time to start dinner …?

I could be wrong, but if you’re willing to track with me, my conspiracy theory goes something like this: the race series is on an unsustainable trajectory.

The cost of competing — from the race fee (nothing to say of the lottery process), the cost of staying in town for multiple days (nothing to say of getting here from out of state …and shopping at the Leadville Safeway, which hands out medals to people leaving that read “I survived the Leadville Safeway!”), and the increasingly expensive ‘norms’ when it comes to the quality of the bike, the expectation to attend for weeks to ‘acclimatize’ (Life Time has brilliantly capitalized on this with their training camps and stage races, by the way) — might be pricing out except the ultra-elite. You know, the type that could throw down 2, 3, 4 grand just to say they drove their $120k van to Leadville and pedaled 105 miles one day.

Now, I’m a free-market guy. The demand is high and L100 race directors aren’t having problems getting people to sign up. If they want to do the race this way, all the power to them. Further, the thousands who do come provide a substantial boost to the economy. Plus, you guessed correctly if you assumed I of all people would never have a problem with an influx of runners and bikers to my home for the month of August! Lastly, I love races, I love people who foster great races, and I love expensive bikes, vans and the grizzled-faced, shaved-leg, long-lasting lung-burning endurance addicts who ride and drive them.

So, what’s the problem?

Jealously? Maybe a little. Concern? YES….no, yes, exactly. I’m pretty sure that is it!

I think I’m “concerned” that L100 has lost sight of its signature races’ original spirit. In 1994, it was all about trendsetters doing the Tom Ritchey thing, piecing together some rough-terrain off-road routes into a single day’s ride. Mountain biking’s wild-west feel — 90’s colored outfits and skinny steel top-tubes, overwhelmed tires and heavy frames trying to do battle with remote forest roads — is hard to find amidst the sea of S-Works frames (ok….I’m jealous….and definitely would love an S-Works anything….do they make S-Works socks? I could buy those…).

Today, athletes whose shiny steeds are custom-built for each of the 20 gravel races they compete in annually show up in Leadville on carbon jet packs worth as much as your car — or more — and rocket around the course in six hours … and then ride in Steamboat Springs the next day.

Again, our world progresses, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Again, I like being serious about training and racing, and if I could, I would own said bike …

My point is, I wonder if the trend continues — and this is the only types of athletes the race attracts — if it will eventually peak and then burst. Just like the mines.

I guess the best way for me to summarize my biggest, most profound “issue” is to say this: if a serious athlete with a strong desire to compete in a race they’re capable of doing well in finds it nearly impossible to do said race, that’s a problem. And I think Leadville has that problem. I think other events do, too. Whether I like it or not, though, my complaint might be just that … complaining. Ok, fair.

What’s the solution? I’m not totally sure. But, in a perfect world, the race would continue as one of the most elite events in the world, retaining it’s high-end talent, top-notch support and energetic finish-line atmosphere. Somewhere in-between the Keegan Swenson’s and the lycra-wearing Jeff Bezos, though, would be a corral with Joe-Six Pack and the Seder-Skier …. and it wouldn’t be in wave 32…I don’t want to walk up the first climb.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not possible.

Maybe we could get another race together. Perhaps a fall 100-miler that uses a different route … a combination of singletrack, mining roads, etc.

{Goes on bike ride to solve world’s problems; conveniently finishes today’s column in the process}

Alright, I have Crested Corona LeadBoat all planned out. For those who are curious, this would be a self-supported four-day mega-ride of the 1) Monarch Crest, 2) Corona Pass – there and back – 3) the entire Leadville 100 route and 4) the entire Steamboat Gravel route.

It’s a 0$ registration fe— there is no registration. And no fun t-shirt for finishers either.

I think we’ve struck gold.

Viking kick off season

The first Vikings preseason game is Sunday! Wow. What a thrill!

This year, I’d like to recommit myself to following the Vikings. Sure, I’ve always ‘followed’ them, I guess. At least if you count listening to a minimum of two Minneapolis-based sports talk radio shows a day as “following.”

The way I see it, despite my knowledge of Minnesota Vikings football, my heart has drifted away from being connected to the outcome of Sundays’ games. And, though most would see that as a healthy change, I think it’s my midwest obligation to reverse course and rededicate my entire soul to the likely disappointment sure to ensure in the 2022-2023 season.

The Vikes could go 13-4 … and also could go 4-13. And I’ll be ready. I plan on trying to break into the darkwebs and stream the action (my parents didn’t teach me this) while having soup and sandwiches (my dad definitely taught me this) every Sunday from here on out.

Win or lose.

Rain or shine.

And I’ll bring a rain jacket.

Everyone to Skis and some things to consider

Maybe a ‘lack of snow’ isn’t so new?

Check out the article linked above for a nice quick read. For more on the Russian ski culture, I highly recommend Everyone to Skis! by William D. Frank. Thoroughly enjoyed this book as it taught me a lot about Soviet history — and skiing history.

Reading that. Seeing this.

I’ll be the first to say it: “Winter is coming.”

Sub-15

Last Saturday I took part in the 16th annual Copper Triangle. It was a fantastic event with great views, support, and food. The atmosphere — from the riders to the volunteers – was top-notch. I wrote a story about it for the Vail Daily.

With over 2,000 riders in the event, I didn’t really think I’d actually contend for the podium for the KOM competition up Vail Pass, but, I gave it my best shot.

The results state that the winning time was 15:14, by Doug Campbell.

If you scroll down, you’ll find my name, with an ‘a.k.’ next to it. I reached out to Outside Events and they told me this indication means the rider was an e-bike cyclist and thus was not eligible for the KOM or QOM competitions. The problem, of course, is that I was not an e-bike rider. My time was 14:55.

I’ve decided that instead of ruffling more feathers, I will walk away from this experience and simply accept my time as my new 5-kilometer running PR conversion equivalent.

It’s nice to finally say I went sub-15.

DP up Independence Pass

On Monday, my wife said she needed to pick something up in Twin Lakes. I decided that if I was driving all the way out there, I might as well do something different.

I brought my rollerskis and set out on Highway 82, just passed the turn from Highway 24. Feeling surprisingly spry, I had the thought that I might try and just go all the way to the top.

The first five miles is a relatively flat half-circumnavigation of the lake in a run-up to the town of Twin Lakes. I had to go a lot slower than I’d hoped because the road quality was much worse than it appeared from the car. The shoulder isn’t smooth and contains a bevy of larger pebbles. Since the traffic wasn’t high, I spent a great deal of time just in the road, but the constant task of checking for cars from either end was an annoying chore.

Twin Lakes is right between mile-marker 80 and 79, which means I did about 4 miles worth of prologue. There are a few steeper climbs in the first three miles, but really, it’s shockingly gradual. The first 11 miles or so went by in roughly 70 minutes. I stopped for a swig of water from Christie, who was my SAG wagon.

I went another 3-4 miles before checking in with her again. This area, somewhere around mm 69, is where I skated to last year. I went up and down on that workout – doable even for a guy like me. I was feeling great, had exclusively double-poled to that point, and was confident about reaching the top.

I remembered how climbing IP from the Twin Lakes side usually meant fighting a slight headwind. To this point, I hadn’t felt much, but I could tell this would be a battle to fight in the next 20 minutes and on. What I forgot, however, was how IP really has a way of tightening the screws on people trying to climb by getting steeper and steeper as you ascend.

At Joanie’s Turn, the first switchback right before the stretch containing a sheer cliff dropoff, I received a warm cheer from a group of older passengers who had stopped to video tape the bizarre man in 1″ Swedish flag shorts and a matching Hoka One One singlet.

“I’m impressed,” a gal in the back, holding a phone out the side-window, said.

I thanked them and rounded the corner. Up ahead, I could see Christie parked precariously on the cliff edge, getting ready to film me. Right in front of her, a large moving truck was doing the unthinkable: backing up and turning around.

A man a few feet from his death, guiding the driver, as a pile up formed to wait for this anxious moment to pass. It did, right about as I churned up to the area. The grade here had noticeably increased, to the point where, if I was racing, I would have classic strode for sure. however, I wasn’t about to give up the DP attempt quite yet. I soldiered on.

Christie video-taped me going by and I didn’t stop. It was the last I’d see her until the top, which ended up really stinking from a hydration standpoint.

The last 3.5-4 miles was absolutely brutal. The steepest straightaway, right after seeing Christie, coincided with a stiff headwind. I stopped to rest twice in what was probably a 1200-meter section. I kept telling myself, if I could just make it to the next switchback, I’d get to the top. Plus, I figured Christie would be there waiting, as I recalled it being a much less sketchy pull out.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the switchback and made the turn, the headwind morphing into a nice tailwind. The grade lessened slightly, too. Christie, however, was nowhere, and I knew then that something was wrong. Maybe Novi needed something and she just decided to get all the way to the top. She had been so gracious SAG-wagoning for me to this point, I could only be grateful.

In the moment, though, I was exhausted, super-thirsty, and kind of mad. What I had looked forward to as being the most awe-inspiring visuals of the entire journey became muddied by my lousy attitude. I stopped a few times to rest, classic strode, just to ruin my DP attempt out of spite (and my elbows were getting a little tight from the steep grade) and sat at the final, majestic switchback for 7 or 8 minutes, just because I figured Christie might be watching, and I selfishly wanted her to wander …maybe even worry…if I was alright.

That wasn’t super nice, I thought, and I started up again. A few minutes later, I was at the top, greeted by Ajee, Christie and Novi, who cheered for me. From start to finish, counting all of the stops, the 22-mile, 3,000-foot climb had taken almost exactly 3-hours.

A few notes for those wanting to try themselves:

  • Not really worth it to start anywhere but Twin Lakes itself….
  • I think, had I raced the 22-mile route, it is certainly possible to do in around 2:20-2:30, especially if one decided to classic stride a few really steep sections. I would guess starting in Twin Lakes, the 17-miler could be done in under 2.
  • This is actually a pretty great climb and workout from mm. 79 – mm. 67/66. I even think going back down wouldn’t be out of the question, but I’d probably rather descend on my slower skate skis. The pavement is pretty nice, there’s a few run-out areas to check your speed, and if done on a weekday, especially in the fall, I bet there’s hardly any traffic from the Twin Lakes side.
  • I’m curious if going up from Aspen would actually be faster. One reason: you get the Alpe d’Huez fan effect of all the hippies who drive up from Aspen just to see the top (this is actually I thing…every time I bike from that side, there are tons of kids, busses, you name it…). The other is the wind. The wind seems to blow up from the Aspen side and into your face on the Twin Lakes side.

I know this post would have been enhanced by pics, but seriously, if you read this blog enough, you know we’re terrible at that stuff….

At the top….no video…sorry

Cost benefit analysis

Remember when all the rage in the public square was over getting a COVID shot? (Ok, sorry if you’re still enraged …but I think a lot of people don’t even know where Anthony Fauci is anymore after his daily front-page appearances).

After thinking I maybe wouldn’t have to think about this again, I came across this news story, revealing that rising biathlete Sivert Guttorm Bakken had heart inflammation in May, “probably as a result of the COVID vaccine,” and has not been able to train normally for three months.

The article states, “The heart inflammation occurred after Bakken took his third dose of the corona vaccine. Then he had to scrap all planned physical training. That was in May, and the 24-year-old is still not back in physical training.”

In terms of vaccine effectiveness, the CDC states, “When BA.2/BA.2.12.1 became predominant, vaccine effectiveness with two doses was 24% against COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and increased to 52%–69% after a third/booster dose.” 

This is unfortunate. Here’s an athlete who, if he contracted COVID — which he is very likely to do even if he’s vaccinated, according to the CDC — would likely make a full and quick recovery. One could argue that getting COVID in and of itself poses an array of unknown after-effects, which is fair, but clearly, so does getting the vaccine. How can the cost-benefit analysis in this athlete’s case weigh in the favor of getting the jab?

Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve read of an elite athlete has had this type of reaction. Hopefully, more stories like this won’t come out.

Heading out for the Copper Triangle

It’s going to be a busy day today!

We’ve got:

  1. Consume coffee
  2. hope my registration is good for the Copper Triangle while driving to Copper Mountain
  3. Riding the 79-mile Copper Triangle (heading out once this post is up)
  4. Write/interview/cover the Copper Triangle
  5. Finish a sermon and then giving a sermon for a class
  6. Pet Ajee
  7. Play with Novi
  8. Get that sports page taken care of

Did you listen to the latest pod?

Happy Saturday Seder-Skier nation!

The daily grind: must… train

Monday’s session in Leadville (elev. 10,152′):

AM: 1 hour road bike … phone died unexpectedly …

Changed into running shoes and decided to tack on intervals:

  • 2 mile warm up
  • 5x1k uphill at “hard-but-don’t-die pace” – (3:52, 3:49, 4:00, 3:48, 3:57 on mixed gravel and pavement, 1-4% grades) with 3:00 min. uphill baby-jog recovery
  • 3 mile cooldown, fast (6:35-7:00 pace)

PM: 1 hour on the ski erg because of thunderstorms

My kind of guys

Maybe it’s a runner thing. 

A much younger me remembers my dad castigating Minnesota Vikings’ players for cliche post-game interview answers, suggesting he, or me — if given the opportunity — ought to provide off-the-wall answers to the stupid questions lobbed by media members. 

I never made it to the NFL (sorry, Dad), but Norway’s wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen must have heard the call.

And I love it. 

In a world where offering one’s two-cents to the press can seemingly alter your life, or at least ruin your week, Jakob — the youngest sub-four miler in earth’s history, an Olympic gold medalist by 20, and as a 6’1 Norwegian, an anomaly in events dominated by prototypical East Africans half his size — doesn’t follow the rules when a microphone is shoved in his face. Which, as you can imagine, happens a lot. 

At the Prefontaine Classic, Jakob gleefully wrote “back-to-back” on a promotional sign in the mixed zone, facetiously warning us — and his helpless competition — of his intentions (and confidence) to win a second Olympic 1500-meter gold. Assuming his goal was novel, when an astute journalist pointed out that Seb Coe accomplished the feat in 1980 and 1984, Ingebrigtsen sheepishly turned to Marketing Gal, smiled, and said, “just add one … back-to-back-to-back.”

Then, as if to warmly remind us of his humanity — since his performances have been leaving us in question lately — he slouched in the same manner a 12-year-old does when asked to wash the dishes and moaned, “Ughh, that’s going to be a difficult job.” 

When he was 16, in the midst of winning an incomprehensible triple — 1500, 5000 and  3000-meter steeplechase golds — at the 2017 Norwegian Championships, Ingebrigtsen joyfully waved his arms to the crowd and then ‘dabbed’ at the finish line. When he repeated the former gesture at the 2022 World Championships, it didn’t come across as showboating, but rather a wake-up call.

“You’re at the World Championships!” he seemed to proclaim. “Get pumped up – live a little.”

To be honest, it’s the same taste his interviews leave reporters and fans with. The raw authenticity and intermittent jokes make everyone wonder if we are just lemmings walking in-step with some arbitrary mainstream social order, which Jakob is happy to make a mockery of. 

Maybe that’s why Jakob is my kind of guy. Few urges coarse through my veins like the desire to be different and the carefree confidence to actually do it. There’s a close second, though, and it requires us to switch gears, metaphorically and literally: my strange obsession with mountain biking every forest service road I pass. Thankfully, I have a guy for that, too. 

When I was chatting with Breck Epic founder Mike McCormack about his Vail 100, he commented on his favorite part of his new race’s course, a perch from the top of the valley complete with 360-degree views.

“There’s a couple of forest service roads that all intersect,” he described.

“And you have this moment of, ‘I wonder where that goes? Where does THAT go? Oh, this would be a great place to camp.” 

Saying Mike’s sentiment resonated with me would be the understatement of the century.

“Like we drive in the car and I’m always looking around going, ‘I wonder where that trail goes? I bet you could ride that,’” he continued. 

Good. I’m not the only one who scouts potential bike ride/campsite combos. Maybe it’s a biker thing.

Back to my boy, Jakob.

Walking through the world championship mixed zone after the 5000-meter prelim, another promotions agent (go figure) approached him and asked if he would finish her sentence “just like at the last meet.” Though this individual apparently believed she was ‘tight’ with the star, his blank look seemed to suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, he graciously paused and acquiesced. 

“Finish this sentence,” she said as the Norwegian star impatiently waited to start his cooldown. “I can’t wait to —” and without even thinking of the career implications or potential headlines on NRK.no, Jakob said, “win” and made a gesture many teenage girls have perfected, which, when translated, means, “a … duh.” 

Seconds later, he was pestered with a question about the impending heat wave for the 5000-meter final.

“No,” he said when asked if he was worried. “Hot weather is just happy weather.” 

Yeah — maybe it’s a runner thing.

The daily grind

What to know about over your cup of morning joe:

  • We got a new podcast up! Check it out here.
  • I’m still stirring a little over this whole Devon Allen DQ thing. Letsrun.com explains why the 2016 Olympian who was poised to perhaps walk off into the sunset (for him, NFL training camp) with a World Championship on his college track in front of his hometown fans…a month after losing his dad …was robbed of an iconic moment because of faulty wiring. Here’s my question: even if IAAF’s technology messed up, what should we do? Rerun the race? This is a talker, for sure.
  • No one deals with the media like Jakob Ingebrigtsen….like when he just casually declared his intentions for a three-peat. …or, when he poo-pooed the heat coming for the 5k in Eugene. “I can’t wait to … win.” He said that so quickly. My dad, who is so sick of cliche athlete responses to media, would love Jakob’s presence, if he cared enough to watch.
  • Johaug, unsurprisingly, crushed her fiance up the famous Alpe d’Huez climb. Christie, are you inspired?